Aymeric Laporte believes Lyon scraps will make Man City stronger in Champions League

Andy Hampson 28/11/2018
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Aymeric Laporte believes Manchester City’s Champions League struggles against Lyon will stand them in good stead for the rest of the competition.

City claimed a place in the last 16 on Tuesday as they twice came from behind to scramble a 2-2 draw against the dominant French side at Groupama Stadium.

It was City’s second tough encounter against Lyon having been beaten by the Ligue 1 outfit at Etihad Stadium in September.

Defender Laporte, who scored City’s first equaliser, said: “What we learn from this is there are a lot of strong teams and if you want to fight for this European trophy you need to fight very hard.

“All the teams are very competitive and demanding in this competition. That is our main challenge, to try to beat them all.”

City got their campaign up and running by responding to the Lyon loss with victory at Hoffenheim and back-to-back successes over Shakhtar Donetsk. They will now look to go through as Group F winners by taking at least a point from their final fixture against Hoffenheim.

Their hopes of taking that top spot would have been all the more difficult had they not managed to find a way back into the game in France.

City were outplayed for large spells and could conceivably have been 3-0 down at half-time as Memphis Depay and Maxwel Cornet fluffed great chances and the latter also hit the woodwork.

The impressive Cornet, the Ivory Coast forward who also struck in Manchester, went on to score twice in the second half but each time City responded quickly, first through Laporte and then Sergio Aguero.

“That’s what we had to do, we had to come back twice,” said Laporte. “That’s why we are happy for the draw and the qualification, because that’s what really matters for us. The main goal from the beginning was qualifying for the round of 16.”

Laporte was City’s best performer on the night, continuing his impressive recent form. The Frenchman has become a mainstay of Pep Guardiola’s defence this season and he made several important defensive interventions before claiming his third goal of the season with a powerful header from a corner.

His partnership with England centre-back John Stones is also blossoming.

We have a great relationship,” said 24-year-old Laporte. “We are always together joking all the time and on the pitch it is working well for both of us. We need to take advantage of that.

“We are very happy for the qualification and are looking forward to the next games.”

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Tottenham's progress a worthy achievement while Harry Kane gets set for Mauro Icardi duel

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New-age Tottenham have come far since their first season in the Champions League.

After one big win at Wembley, Tottenham are in search of another as they face Inter Milan in the Champions League.

It is a must-win fixture for Spurs if they are to have any hope of qualifying out of the Group B, where they are currently only third, three points behind the Italian side in second.

But Saturday’s 3-1 win over Chelsea should give them the confidence they can pull off a similar result in this fixture.

Here’s a look at the talking points ahead of Wednesday’s game.

Fixture shows how far Spurs have come

Tottenham have been here before. The last time they were drawn against Inter in a Champions League group stage, they went into their home encounter having lost in Milan and sitting on four points.

Of course, back then, the group didn’t include Barcelona, and Spurs had three games left including the Inter fixture, not two.

But amid the doom and gloom which has surrounded Tottenham this season – though Saturday’s win over Chelsea lifted much of it – it’s worth reflecting how far the north London club have come.

In 2010, though they would never have admitted it, Tottenham were simply happy to be in the Champions League. After all, it was their first season in the competition.

That was the Gareth Bale era at Tottenham, and though it’s worth wondering what Spurs could do if this squad also possessed a player like him, it’s also fair to point out that this side is better, and more consistent.

And knocking on the door of Europe’s elite. That’s something not true of eight years ago.

It won’t be any comfort if they lose on Wednesday, but that Spurs are in a group with Inter and Barcelona and still have a shot of making it out is quite an achievement.

Battle of strikers set to be decisive

Harry Kane is back to his best. Mauro Icardi has been in top form all season. The stage is set for a battle of two superstar strikers at Wembley.

And both have something to prove. Kane has never gone past the Round of 16 in the Champions League, while this is Icardi’s first season in the competition. Neither has won a trophy. So, carrying the hopes of their respective clubs – and, for Kane, his country as well – these two strikers are hungry to deliver.

One senses that scoring goals which lead to their teams’ succeeding is the only thing keeping Kane and Icardi from taking that last, small leap to put them alongside the likes of Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the world’s elite.

Wednesday will be a good time to start. An Inter win would seal their spot in the Round of 16, in their first season back in the competition, while Kane and Spurs know that they need to win this game – likely by at least two goals – and win at the Camp Nou on the last matchday to have any chance of beating Inter to the punch. Which striker will step forth?

Another test for Tottenham’s resurgent midfield

There’s no respite for Spurs’ in-form midfield. Fresh from seeing off the threat of Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, and N’Golo Kante on Saturday, Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko have the task of outduelling Radja Nainggolan, Marcelo Brozovic, and Matias Vecino at Wembley.

Yet Tottenham fans can be quietly confident about their team winning that battle. Nainggolan is pedigreed, undoubtedly, but is also slowing, and can be error-prone at times. He has the experience to deal with the pressure Spurs will put on him, but is often guilty of trying too hard, Sissoko and Dier’s helpers, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, will enjoy testing him.

And while Brozovic may have helped anchor a run to the World Cup final for Croatia, and Vecino has gradually become one of Europe’s better defensive midfielders, there’s an argument that neither is in as good form as Sissoko.

The Frenchman has resurrected his career this season, and judging by the way he played against Chelsea, he can have a similar effect on this Spurs team that Mousa Dembele did against Juventus last season. And Dier was equally good on Saturday. Not many would have said this even a month ago, but the Sissoko-Dier duo is now looking like Spurs’ key to success.

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PSV v Barcelona talking points as Luis Suarez absence demands reshuffle

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Barcelona are in a strong position to advance past the group stages of the Champions League and should get the job done with a result away to PSV Eindhoven.

The Spanish giants have been a mixed bag so far this season domestically but have coped well in the continental tournament, picking up three wins and a draw in their four group matches.

PSV on the other hand are in desperate need of a victory in order to keep their hopes alive of making the round of 16.

Here are a few talking points ahead of the encounter:

VALVERDE’S SELECTION HEADACHE

Ernesto Valverde is having to cope with a long list of injuries ahead of this fixture, chief among them being a knee problem which has ruled Luis Suarez out for two weeks.

The Uruguayan’s absence presents a problem for the Barca coach who only has Munir El Haddadi at his disposal as a recognised senior centre forward.

Deploying a 4-4-2 formation against Atletico Madrid on Saturday made for a more sturdy looking Barcelona side. But unless he’s willing to start Munir alongside Lionel Messi, Valverde may have to revert to a 4-3-3 system which would likely mean the controversial Ousmane Dembele included in the first XI along with Philippe Coutinho who only recently regained fitness.

An injury to Brazil midfielder Arthur as well will mean Ivan Rakitic gets drafted straight back into proceedings after injury.

Sidelined: Luis Suarez.

Sidelined: Luis Suarez.

LOZANO FORM

If PSV have a danger man, it’s Hirving Lozano and Barcelona most likely know all about him.

The Mexico international has consistently been linked to his ‘dream club’ and is in the form of his life at the moment.

Lozano is one of the most sought-after wingers in football and has upped his game this season, scoring 10 goals and providing five assists Eredivise so far. He’s also coming into this fixture on the back of a fine performance against Heerenveen, against whom he bagged a brace.

The 23-year-old largely operates on the left flank and with Sergi Roberto injured, should come up against Nelson Semedo who has looked suspect defensively.

Barcelona are bound to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, meaning Lozano will play a key role as PSV’s main attacking outlet on the break.

Hirving Lozano

BARCA AWAY FROM HOME

A draw at Philips Stadion would guarantee Barcelona a place in the round of 16, while three points would also see them wrap up the top spot in Group B. However, it hasn’t been quite so straightforward for the Catalans on the road this season.

Their 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano over the weekend meant they’ve now dropped 14 points away from home in La Liga this term from a possible 18.

Sergio Busquets is acutely aware of Barcelona’s shortcomings when travelling and that is a concern ahead of their trip to Eindhoven. Their last Champions League game produced a 1-1 draw at the San Siro against Inter Milan.

“We had one very bad week with the matches against Girona, Leganes and Athletic and we paid for it,” he said in an interview with Catalunya Radio.

“We’ve not been as solid and effective away from home as we’d like to be,” he added.

However, Barcelona can take encouragement from their excellent 4-2 victory over Tottenham at Wembley, while they enjoyed an emphatic 4-0 win when they faced PSV at home.

Sergio Busquets.

Sergio Busquets.

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